We are honored and excited to welcome our newest contributor for the EB tribe, Susan Farago of Texas. Susan has a wide range of endurance sports experience along with a deep passion in introducing women into our sport.
Enjoy as Susan shares her first article on trails and traveling.
Trail runners are a naturally curious and adventurous bunch of folks, so when travel plans come up, take advantage of exploring a new neck of the woods! I took the opportunity to discover some new trails as well as revisiting some of my favorites while spending three weeks in Minnesota visiting family. Photos and related stories are at the end of this article.
To get started, there are many ways to find new trails:
- The Internet – Traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico? Search for “trail running Santa Fe NM” and see what pops up. Some popular outdoor locations, like Boulder Colorado, will have many trail resources to choose from; whereas lesser known locations like Steamboat Rock, Iowa may require a little more digging.
- Contact Local Run Groups – If there is an area run club, send them an e-mail or search their website for group runs. It’s a great (and easy) way to discover new trails and make new friends.
- Talk to Friends – Check with friends to see if they know of any trails, resources, or things to watch out for on unfamiliar trails. A friend of mine told me about a great trail just outside of Los Angeles but followed it up with, “The trail has bobcats. If you bend over to tie your shoe, make sure you back up to a canyon wall or rock – do not turn your back.” Talk about good advice!
- Find a Race – Some people travel and then try to find a local race. Other people find a race and then travel to it. Either way, races are a great way to discover new areas.
- Find a Park – There are over 84 million acres of national park land in the United States (National Park Service, 2014). Odds are there is a park near many travel locations so take advantage of these amazing resources.
When finding new trail, it is always good to keep a few safety tips in mind. Carry a map – paper is ideal because no batteries are required. Bring a cell phone and include any local numbers such as park headquarters or even the hotel where you are staying. Proper gear for hydration and first aid are always a good idea (check out the DIY first aid kit article). And let someone know your plans before you go and when you return, including leaving emergency contact information with hotel personnel. Weather patterns can vary drastically in different areas so check the daily forecast before you go. A few safety precautions can make a world of difference so take an extra few minutes to cover your bases.
Three weeks and four trails in Minnesota
Afton Trail Race (website) – My home town favorite race, this event takes place in July at Afton Alps where my grandpa used to take me downhill skiing as a child. Needless to say, it is a very hilly course boasting a challenging 25K or 50K route. But the scenic views of flowered meadows, babbling trout streams, and a two mile run along the St. Croix River on an old railroad bed make this event one I look forward to every summer. The event is in its 21st year and has donated over $40,000 back to the park.
Sonju Trail on the North Shore – My husband grew up in Two Harbors, Minnesota which is located at the very western tip of Lake Superior (125 miles south of Canada). He didn’t discover trail running until a few years ago so when we were in Two Harbors for the weekend, it gave us the perfect excuse to explore trails that were literally in his former back yard. Lake Superior’s endless expanse of grey-blue water and long rugged granite shoreline provides an awe-inspiring backdrop to the colorful fields of flowers lining the Sonju Trail where we also discovered the long forgotten Pulpwood Storage Yard and Quarry (1899-1938). The Superior Trail Race series hosts a variety of spring and fall events in this area as well.
(Sonju Trail along Lake Superior in Two Harbors, MN.)
Battle Creek Park Trail in St. Paul – Named for a fierce battle between the Dakota and Ojibwe Indians in 1842, the Battle Creek neighborhood includes a 1,840 acre park nestled in one of St. Paul’s urban areas. The park provides an oasis for runners, cyclists, and dog lovers (there is a dog park) in the summer, and cross country skiers and snow shoe runners in the winter. I discovered this park 20 years ago and decided to revisit it to test my trail navigation skills. Armed with nothing but a Google Earth map, I discovered the park has since been updated to include trailhead maps and trail markers for both the paved and off road portions. I put my mind in autopilot mode and let the meandering trails take me through flowering meadows, grassy fields, groves of pine trees, and past boggy ponds and musical frogs. Despite the frequent family of cyclists, rollerblading friends, or lone dog walkers, it was amazing how solitary this urban park could feel.
German Trinity Cemetery – One of my usual running routes while in Minnesota includes a trip to visit “my friends” at the German Trinity Cemetery. This tiny cemetery dates back to the early 1800s and tens of thousands of people pass by it every day as they travel along Interstate 94 and have no idea it’s even there. In fact, I-94 had to be rerouted around the cemetery back in the 1970s when the interstate expanded from four to eight lanes. When I step off the road and into the small, circular mowed area (the local boy scout troop maintains the cemetery), I take a few minutes to stop by each tombstone and say “hello” to its occupant(s).
(The grove of trees hiding the German Trinity Cemetery from I-94 passers-by.)
No matter where the trails take you, enjoy the journey and discover places you may never have known existed, even if they have been in your own back yard the entire time.
– Susan Farago
Posted on 18 Aug 2014